In need of moral support.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by rebrascora, Nov 10, 2014.

  1. rebrascora

    rebrascora Overrun With Chickens

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    Hi

    I killed a chicken for the first time today and I'm feeling in need of sharing and discussing it.

    At the grand old age of 50, it is the first time I have intentionally killed any animal and it was not a comfortable experience for me.
    The chicken in question was a young pullet of 20 weeks. One of my first clutch of broody reared chicks. She went lame over a week ago. My hens insist on roosting 6 feet up on the top of the hay heck in the stable that I use for a hen house. This is the 3rd pullet to go lame and I assumed she had injured her leg coming down from the roost. I couldn't feel an obvious injury so I left her to it for a few days and then decided that she needed to be confined to the infirmary with one of the other lame pullets. She was unable to keep herself upright so I made her a nest and put food and water within reach and ensured that she had some at least twice a day. She was moving about a little within the nest but she was clearly deteriorating and the last couple of days she has done huge poops that really stunk... think broody poop but worse! Tonight I decided that she had suffered enough and I needed to put her out of her misery.
    I have been researching methods for some time as her male siblings are starting to make a nuisance of themselves and I said from the start that whatever male chicks I raised that were not suitable for breeding, would be for the pot. Anyway, I had decided on an axe and a chopping block but in the end I opted for a broom shank for this little girl. Having never done it before I knew that I needed to err on the side of force rather than be half hearted and I actually decapitated her in the process. I'm not ashamed to say I cried and thinking about it now is still causing me to shed a few more tears, but it is done and she is not suffering anymore.

    I am a practical person and I decided that I need to learn from her death in whatever ways I can, so I have plucked her in practice for the cockerels that need processing asap (there will be lots more tears to come), and tomorrow I will conduct a primitive post mortem. Having plucked her, the most notable thing was that she is tiny but clearly has a large mass in her abdomen, so either she is egg bound or has a tumour. To the best of my knowledge she has not yet laid an egg. I'm guessing this mass would cause the lameness and semi paralysis together with the large infrequent poops and disgusting smell.
    I am more comfortable with doing the post mortem than the killing and I intend to salvage whatever I can that looks healthy to feed the cats if not fit for human consumption as I hate waste. It just really hurt me to end her life even though she was obviously dying anyway.

    I know I need to tough up as the cockerels are to deal with pronto (they are all intent on raping their mother despite there being many other hens.... she is receptive to their father but is becoming very stressed by the repeated attentions of her sons) I could get someone to do it for me, but I really think that this is my responsibility and it is not right to shirk it. If I eat meat, then it seems morally wrong that I am not prepared to kill it and even worse that someone has a job as a slaughterman and actually kills animals everyday for a living.... how demoralising must that be!
    Anyway, I watched a video on you tube today of a lady who lies them in her lap head down whilst she is sitting down, strokes them and waits for them to relax and then slits their carotid artery. It seemed so much more caring than dropping them head first into a killing cone or stretching their neck on a chopping block. I may try that technique next. She was wearing an apron and by opening her knees and then wrapping the sides of the apron around the bird it was kind of papoosed so that it couldn't flutter. It was almost like it was being hugged as it was dying.

    Anyway, I feel a little better just for recounting my thoughts and sad experiences of today and I will report back tomorrow with whatever results I get from my post mortem.

    Hopefully whatever I learned today and tomorrow will benefit the rest of my flock and perhaps others may read this and gain some benefit from it too.

    Regards

    Barbara
     
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  2. Free Feather

    Free Feather Chillin' With My Peeps

    I do not eat flesh, but I have a respect for people who realize that if they eat meat they need to see what is going on instead of force someone to do it for them because they can not take it. If one was in misery, serious pain, I guess I would end their life, but I would definitely not be happy doing it. Ending suffering is something one with animals must be prepared to do at a time or another. I hope you do not have to deal with an ill chicken again.
     
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  3. JanetMarie

    JanetMarie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Your chickens are fortunate to have an owner who cares so much.
     
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  4. keesmom

    keesmom Overrun With Chickens

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    Thank you for posting your experience, and for doing what is right for your ailing pullet. Killing is never easy whether it be for illness, injury or for food. I know how hard it must have been as I was in the same position as you several years back. I grew up city bred. Never even saw a chicken until after I married and moved to more rural location. As is the case with chickens at some point you have one that is sick or injured, and needs to be put out of his/her misery. My first turned out to be a crazy broody, my son's favorite bird, that managed to start brooding outdoors in late November. I thought something had eaten her. Mid December she showed up briefly to eat so I knew she was setting somewhere. I searched and could not find her anywhere. After 2 snow/ice storms I managed to catch her as she went to her hidden clutch of eggs in the crotch of a clump of trees. I caged her inside to assess her condition. It was obvious the injuries due to frostbite were devastating so I had to do what needed to be done. It was hard.

    Several years down the road I raise our own meat birds. Having to kill and process them myself is still difficult. However I would rather eat birds I knew saw the sun, rolled in the dirt, ate grass and bugs, and had someone that cared for them at the end.

    Here is a thread you may be interested in from the Meat Birds forum.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/...ort-group-help-us-through-the-emotions-please

    I will be interested in your post mortem to see how it went.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2014
  5. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    It is not easy, but for me, once the killing part is over, then it is just business. But even yet it takes a bit of determination on my part. I do the slicing of the artery, and hold them tight, and really, they just relax and get weak and slip off. Works for me.

    If you want advice on the processing, this is what I have found works for me. You need a very large pot of water at 150 degrees, a brown paper grocery bag, sharp knives, a bowl of soapy water at the station and one of clean water and I cover my table in new-paper. I use the brown paper bag for feathers and offal. I heat the water above 150 degrees before I go and get my birds. I do two at a time if it is just me.

    It is hard, but in someway, it is satisfying too. It is a part of keeping a flock well, vigorous and thrifty.

    It does not get easier, but you get better at it.

    Mrs K
     
  6. Denwendairy

    Denwendairy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I can appreciate how hard this is to do! My husband grew up in a farm family where one of the annual fall chores was slaughtering the broilers for meat over the winter. Despite this, the thought of either of us having to dispatch one of our loved laying hens is tough and we are not looking forward to the day we'll have to face it. That being said we also won't want to see any of them suffer and will do what we need to do.
    I wish you all the best with processing the roosters!
     
  7. rebrascora

    rebrascora Overrun With Chickens

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    Hi again and many thanks to you all for your replies and support. I really appreciate you taking the time and effort to post responses and share your experience/thoughts.
    It is 7.30am here and I am just having a quick cup of coffee before heading out to do morning chores, so no post mortem results yet, but will report back when it is done.

    Thanks for the link to the "emotional support for processing meat birds" thread. I have dipped into that thread a couple of times already during my research and will no doubt go back there again when I start on the cockerels. Two at a time sounds like a good plan. I had thought to do just one. It makes sense to process more at a go but 6 which is the number to go, seemed like a huge number. I just wasn't sure I could manage more than one in a day, but I think 2 could be an achievable goal.

    Anyway, it is a new day here and I am going to find out what my little girl was ailing and hopefully add that info to my large learning curve of knowledge.

    Will be back later to report.

    Barbara
     
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    It's hard no doubt......and I felt the need to write about it too.

    I read alot of harvest stories before my first, it helped.
    Used a homemade cone and jugular cut.

    Here's my story.
     
  9. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Well worth the time, and a great website.
     
  10. rebrascora

    rebrascora Overrun With Chickens

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    Consett Co.Durham. UK
    Hi again

    Haven't had time to check out that link yet aart, but will do so later, so thanks for that as it sounds like it will very helpful.

    Just going to make a quick post mortem report whilst it is fresh in my mind as to what I saw.... no camera available I'm afraid so you are spared the gory details.

    Basically she had a huge subcutaneous tumour (the size of a duck egg) on the right side of her abdomen extending down from the bottom edge of her breast. Her heart, liver and kidneys looked healthy but her gall bladder was perhaps larger than I would have expected and the inside of her gizzard was bright yellow. There was also some very yellow subcutaneous fat on her breast which was almost liquid that struck me as a bit odd. I do feed mixed corn (I think you may call it scratch) which contains some maize along with other grains and pulses but the skin itself was not yellow as I've seen maise fed chickens, just these small areas of fat.

    The good thing was that there were no obvious intestinal parasites and I'm relieved that she wasn't egg bound as I would have felt bad that I might have been able to help her with that if I'd figured it out sooner. I'm now worried though that this may be Mareks as I believe that can cause tumours and she was obviously suffering paralysis towards the end. Whether that was as a result of the tumour putting pressure on a nerve or something else, I don't know yet.

    The big positive from the post mortem is that it tells me I did the right thing in ending her life. I intend to read up lots on Mareks now and possibly post on the emergency and diseases section, so please keep your fingers crossed for me that it's not Mareks but just an unfortunate tumour. I may have to put processing the roosters on hold as I don't know what the implications are as regards eating them if there is Mareks in my flock.

    Life is never entirely straightforward is it!

    Thanks again to everyone for their sympathy and support.

    Regards

    Barbara
     
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